Gluten Free Starter Guide and Tips
It is extremely important when first starting to eat Gluten Free (staying away from anything that contains Wheat, Barley or Rye) and heal your body try to stay away from processed GF prepackaged foods. There are some good ones out there, but be aware, Some of them maybe GF ingredients but they could be processed on the same lines as gluten containing ingredients. Some of them just out and out lie and slap that GF label on the package just to make money. It is illegal and several of them have been caught, but another one pops up all the time. So until you find the products that you can trust at first it is just safer to eat as clean as possible to begin with.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, Non- processed meats, etc.
Always wash fruits and vegetables with a white vinegar and warm water mixture, then rinse well.
Plain Milk and Dairy is Gluten Free, ( although some do have reactions to them, it may just take time to figure out what you react to.)
Be aware of Ice creams not all Ice cream is GF. You have to read labels.
Eggs are Gluten Free, ( I know some of this seems like a no brainer, but I have had people ask me these questions, and some people do react to eggs, my Mom is one of them, but it’s not because there is gluten in the eggs. We use Duck eggs and have no problems with them.)
Always, Always!!! READ LABELS!!! I don’t care if you’ve purchased that same brand or product before and it was GF. Food companies change ingredients all the time! I have found this out the hard way.
Be very aware of Cross Contamination! If you use the same pans, bowls, and cooking utensils to cook gluten foods then use them to cook GF foods. You WILL cross contaminate yourself. Stainless steel is great, because it can be washed in the dishwasher and clean it thoroughly. Plastic, rubber, and wooden bowls can have scratches or cuts in them which will hold on to gluten.
Toasters are a big source of Cross Contamination! If your household is not going totally GF, then you need to have a separate toaster only for GF foods.
Hand towels, hot pad holders, anything with a soft or porous surface will hold gluten. I usually use paper towels to dry my hands. Just in case someone comes in with Gluten on their hands and doesn’t get it all off, then wipes it on the towel.
Also be aware of Soaps, Shampoos, Toothpaste, Shaving lotions, etc. Some of them do contain gluten.
Oh and this is something that you just don’t think about until it happens to you. Someone else driving your car and eating gluten then getting it on your steering wheel. People just don’t think about it. So I’m constantly cleaning my steering wheel, since we have teenage drivers around now.
Be aware of Spices, some of them are the real deal and only contain the spice that’s in the jar. Some of them are not, they add fillers. There are some brands that are pure spices.
Be aware of cellulose. Not all cellulose is GF. Some of it is made from Wheat and Barley Straw which does contain gluten.
Trouble Shooting Tips for Gluten Free Bread
Over the years I’ve tried to keep track of all of the things I did wrong making GF bread as well as the things that worked. So here is a list of some of these tips.
If your bread sinks in the center.
- Possibly your dough is too wet.
- Baking time may not be long enough, if bread is not done in the center, that will cause it to sink.
- You may be putting too much oil or butter on top when you smooth out the dough.
- If you use a second mixing cycle in your bread machine or punch down the dough for a second rise. GF dough does not like to be disturbed after the first rise.
- If you are have a recipe that calls for a different GF flour than you are using. The reason for this is GF flours are so different, they do not absorb liquids at the same rate. Some absorb more liquid than others and some just don’t want to absorb liquids at all. For example Coconut flour absorbs much more liquid than rice flour. This can also be the reason your breads turn out so dry, even though it does rise.
For more tips check out my GF cook Book, Jan’s Gluten Free Cook Book
More Tips and Tricks for Gluten Free Cooking
Gluten Free flours have gotten a lot better over the years, but there are still some tips that will help you a lot in exchanging regular wheat flour for Gluten Free flour.
- Right off the bat, NO I have not found a GF flour that you can just exchange in the same amounts that you would use in wheat flour. It just doesn’t work the same.
- There are so many different blends of flours, some use corn starch, or potato starch, or tapioca starch, (none of them are the same) and they do not react the same to the other ingredients in the recipe. That is why so many Gluten Free recipes fail. When you figure out the positive chemical reaction for each GF flour. Then you will have a successful recipe! That is why I name each Brand of flour I use in all my recipes.
- A lot of the Gluten Free Flour blends have a rice base. Some are bean flour. Rice and Beans are both hard when they are dry, so in order for them not to have a gritty texture, you must let the dough or batter set for a while and soak up the liquids before baking or cooking. Except fried foods, when fried at high heat the rice flours become crisp not grainy. Also the flours absorb oils better than it does butter, if the butter gets cool. But you also give up a lot of flavor when using oil.
- Because Gluten Free flours are heavier than wheat flour, it takes gluten free flours longer to rise than wheat flour. So I add more baking powder and more yeast than I did for wheat flour. I also let most of my dough set longer in a warm place to rise. (Except my sour dough, it doesn’t need the extra time) The warmth of steam, seems to help activate the yeast so it can rise. So when I start to bake a loaf of bread, I will start a pot of water to boil on the back of the stove.
- When baking Gluten Free yeast breads, you should not try to punch down the loaf for a second rise. Most Gluten Free dough will not rise a second time. When it rises, it is ready to bake. If it does not rise, the yeast you used may be bad or out of date. I always keep my yeast in the fridge. If you let it set in the cabinet,it could possibly get too warm and ruin the yeast.
- Baking times usually will be at a lower temperature setting, but they will need to bake longer. Most of the time I will use 325*F. setting and about 10 -12 minutes longer baking time. It depends a lot on your type of oven, and the thickness of the item you are baking. For instance, bread dough will always take longer to bake than a cake batter.
Fats & Oils
When baking with Gluten Free Flours, it helps to use at least 2 different fats or oils. There are some recipes that I have only used oil, but that is to keep the bread from turning brown. Most of the time, I usually use butter and oil. Unless I’m baking a squash bread or any kind of fruit bread, such as banana bread. Then I just use butter and fruit, the fruit acts as an oil. I don’t know the scientific reason for this but the rice flours fluff up better when you use 2, rather than just butter or oil by themselves.
G F Binders
If you are new to Gluten Free baking, the first thing you need to know, is check the GF flour ingredients. If it does not have xanthan gum or guar gum, then you have to add it if the recipe does not call for it. Gluten is a protein in wheat, barley, or rye, etc. that holds the dough together. Since there is no gluten in rice, or other GF flours you have to add a binder, such as xanthan gum or guar gum. In the premade cookie, or cake mixes, and GF Bisquick, the binders are already added, but most GF flours do not have them. So far most of the All-purpose GF flour blends that I have tried do have xanthan gum in already added. Betty Crocker GF does have guar gum, but it isn’t enough and you must add xanthan gum to help it along. The single rice flours or almond flours, etc. usually don’t. Please be sure and check the label. Otherwise you will have mush come out of the oven instead of a cake, the Betty Crocker GF rice flour just doesn’t have enough binder to hold the cake or bread together.